Archaeometric Soil Analysis

Archaeometry, or the application of scientific techniques to the study of archaeology, is a field that is growing quickly due to the increasing availability of techniques, tools, and instrumentation that can apply the traditional hard sciences to important questions in archeological investigation. As technology continues to expand, the applications in archaeometry or archaeological science continue to grow with it.

Archaeological Information in Soil Composition

It is known that the presence of certain elements above or below the background average for a specific site can be indicators of certain types of human activity. For example, high concentration of lead (Pb) in soil that diminishes as you move away from a line can indicate that lead pipes ran through that soil at one time, and where they were placed. Elevated levels of strontium and rubidium can indicate an area where fire was used, while elevated levels of iron can indicate an area where blood was shed repeatedly (like a slaughterhouse or ritual sacrifice alter) or a metalworker’s shop. It may surprise people unfamiliar with soil archaeology to find out that such elemental signals in soil can persist for hundreds of years.

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Tracer III-V+ at archaeological dig site

Archaeological Soil Analysis with the Bruker Tracer III series

The chemical or elemental analysis of soil in order to extract information regarding human activity in a specific area is a known method of archaeological science, but it can be very expensive and time consuming depending on the technology used. In the past- expensive, difficult, and time-consuming methods such as ICP were used on a very limited number of samples to conduct archaeometric soil studies. However, today there are tools available that will allow for a high soil sample throughput at a low per-sample cost: the Bruker Tracer III handheld XRF analyzer.

The Bruker Tracer III series offers the archeological scientist a fast, fully portable method of obtaining complete elemental soil chemistry from any soil sample. The advantages of the Bruker Tracer III series for archeometric soil analysis include:

  • Specialized software for applications in archaeology offer multiple way to process your data
  • Samples can be analyzed in-situ to maximize throughput, or can be collected and homogenized in order to obtain a near-laboratory-quality analysis
  • Elemental analysis range is Na (sodium) through U (uranium) in solid samples. Mg to Uranium in powdered samples
  • Instrument can be used anywhere, whether in the lab or at a remote archeological site
  • Bruker features a focused applications team that specializes in XRF applications in art and archaeological science, offering the utmost support for your applications

Contact our specialized XRF in archaeological science experts today to find out what we can do to boost your research.

Related Applications:

  • Archaeology
  • Obsidian Analysis
  • Art Conservation